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From Presidential Photographer to a Mask Seller: The Story of Robert Muthee

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Upon completion of school and professional training, you are propelled to a career path that allows you to rub shoulders with the high and the mighty. You have your whole life figured out and things seem to fall in to place so seamlessly. Imagine an opportunity to directly or indirectly work with or for a President, or taking up assignments that make you cross paths with them.

This is an ideal life, an ideal career, and a dream for many. At this point, you have climbed the financial and career ladders. You work so selflessly, make money with ease and lead a satisfying life.

Then one day, just as you are going about your daily routine, the heavens come collapsing on your shoulders. The silver lining on your platter is taken off. Your career comes tumbling down, your financial fortunes quickly dwindle, and a dark cloud hangs over your head. You fall into financial depression, your life is animated with sprawling debts and comes down clashing like a house of cards.

At this point, you will have to make a decision. A decision on whether to remain at your lowest, or a decision to pick up the pieces and start all over again. This is the case and the story of Robert Muthee. 

From being a regular photographer of presidential events to rubbing shoulders with billionaires, Muthee had it all, he had reached the pinnacle, the apex of his career. However, today, Muthee can only narrate his story in what can be described as a fictional characterisation, from his make-shift stall where he sells face masks on the streets of Thika Town in Kiambu County.

Muthee, who owned a thriving photography business in Thika Town, can only reminisce on his heydays glory. The once flourishing business is now a pale shadow of its former self.

He, however, says that he had to make a decision, a decision that is not popular with many people. 

“Before I started selling masks, I was in the photography business. I worked with many dignitaries including Kenya’s three Presidents,” he begins his narration.

Muthee, a man who started taking photos in the year 1994 as a casual labourer, narrates that he delved into photography as a career in 1998 and opened his studio in 2002, a move that saw him work with the who-is-who in the corporate world.

“I have worked with very many big people in the industry. I have worked with industrial giants and billionaires like Manu Chandaria and Vimal Shah of Bidco,” narrates Muthee.

The one-time revered photographer turned mask seller, says that despite the calibre of his client, he charged the same rate for all his services.

Running his company, Muthee Media International, clients came calling, seeking the services of this popular and talented photographer, and owing to the quality of his work, the clients became regulars and sent referrals his way.

Despite his rate of Ksh25,000 per hour for both photography and videography, business was booming and he was always fully booked, making a minimum of a quarter a million.

“On a bad month, I was getting like Ksh250,000. On a good month, I would make up to Ksh1 million,” he recalled.

At his peak, Muthee narrates that he expanded his studio and lived a lavish lifestyle, owning equipment valued at over Ksh2 million and a brand new car at the time.

“I had a good job and did not owe anyone any money. But it all changed the day my friend, who is a shylock, walked into my office with Ksh200,000 in cash.”

Muthee, who was then editing a video clip on is computer, could not help but notice how his friend was counting the money. Upon noticing his stare, the friend asked the bewildered Muthee on whether he would need the money. Convinced, he accepted the offer without a second thought. Little did he know that this would mark the beginning of his financial tribulations.

Muthee used the money to buy more accessories for his business, hoping that he would return it by end of the month as agreed. However, when the time came, he only had Ksh180,000.

His friend stated that the remainder had to be paid as a new loan. Noticing that something was not right, he took another loan of Ksh100,000 from yet another shylock to fund the deficit.

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